I’m happy I’m not a young woman anymore. Youth, dewey beauty, is a handicap - at least in some situations. From the age of eleven - when I had grown to my full height, was in possession of a woman’s body, a vehicle I had no idea how to drive - from that age, I felt hunted. I was prey. I was whistled at, shouted at, leered at, pressed up against on buses, hungry eyes always devouring me. After a night of babysitting, a drunken dad would drive me home, slurry inquiring about my “love life”. I was thirteen, I didn’t have a love life. A family friend, always, on every visit, telling me he’d marry me, he’d wait for me no matter how long it took. Eventually, I’d hide in my room when he came over. All of it was entirely terrifying, always a whiff of rape. I don’t miss it.
I’m an attractive woman in my forties. I don’t elicit that kind of reaction anymore, at least from the population at large. I walk through the world relatively safe. Part of it is the personal power that comes with age. Men can sense that I’m not to be fucked with. That in one capacity or another, I will kick their collective asses if they attempt to invade. And for some, delightfully, I’m invisible. Their gaze drifts past me to the twenty-two-year-old cowering behind me. Silly men don’t know what they’re missing but that’s just fine with me.
When I was twenty, I also came to Europe alone, and was chased. It made the trip mostly impossible to enjoy. I was always on guard, as I well I should have been.
I’ll take the wrinkles, the grey hair, the sense of self. More than worth the trade.